By Jack Jodell, May 9, 2011
AMY GOODMAN (1957- ) is a very talented journalist, author, activist, and host of LINK TV’s Democracy Now!, which is also carried on nearly 300 radio stations. The show is one of a kind, in that it is produced without even one cent of corporate underwriting.
Goodman has seen it all. She is a descendant of Hasidic Jewish rabbis and two radical parents. Her father is an opthalmologist and she and her brother David grew up on Long Island. A graduate of Harvard with a degree in anthropology, she spent 10 years after leaving school as news director of Pacifica radio station WBAI in New York City. She co-founded Democracy Now! in 1996, and it has been hailed as “probably the most significant progressive news institution that has come around in some time” by University of Illinois professor and media commentator Robert McChessney. For Amy Goodman takes very seriously the role of investigative journalist. She has never shied from asking the tough questions of anyone or to dig in where others do not go. While at WBAI in 2000, for example, she and colleague Gonzalo Aberto grilled Bill Clinton for 28 minutes about NAFTA, Leonard Peltier, racial profiling, Israel-Palestine relations, the death penalty, and Ralph Nader. Clinton, taken somewhat aback because he thought he was calling in with a short get-out-the-vote plea, accused her at one point of being “hostile and combative.” Prior to this, in 1991, she and fellow journalist Alan Nairn were almost killed in a massaxre of 271 Timorese by Indonesian soldiers in the then-breakaway province of East Timor. Only by frantically waving her U.S. passport was she able to save herself and Nairn from certain annihilation. She has reported on human rights violations extensively, not only there but in Peru, Haiti, and Nigeria as well.
In 1998, Amy Goodman and Jeffrey Scahill exposed Chevron Corporation’s role in a confrontation between the Nigerian Army and villagers who had seized oil rigs and other Chevron equipment in a protest over their land having been contaminated. Her documentary, called Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship, showed how Chevron had helicoptered army troops in and how 2 people were then shot, with 11 others being injured. It won that year’s George Polk award. In 2008, Goodman was arrested, handcuffed, and thrown to the pavement in St. Paul, MN while inquiring as to the safety and whereabouts of two of her Democracy Now! reporters covering antiwar protesters outside that year’s Republican National Convention. She was charged with “obstructing a legal process and interfering with a peace officer.” The charges were completely bogus, as a videotape which went viral the next day clearly showed.
Goodman, a dedicated peace activist, has never been afraid to stand her ground for her beliefs. She was once set to receive an award from the Overseas Press Club, of which NBC’s Tom Brokaw was a board member. When the announcement was made that then-Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke would be the keynote speaker and would not have to answer any questions about the American bombing of a Serbian TV station, Goodman declined the award by saying to Brokaw, “Thank you, but no thank you.” She has always believed that dissent is a vital component of democracy. Ever critical of the mainstream media, which she accurately claims withholds news and features too much Hollywood nonsense, her view is that media should not be complicit, but rather an “Exception to the Rulers” (also the title of her 2004 best selling book). She has said “The role of reporters is to go where the silence is and say something.” That she has had no problem in doing, with an ever-growing number of books, films, and awards to her credit.
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and conversing with Amy Goodman briefly in 2005. She was on tour to publicize her book Exception to the Rulers and appeared one night in Minneapolis. I had her sign my copy and I consider it to be one of my most prized possessions. She was very serious and almost intense, and there was a glint of weariness in her eyes. That weariness is understandable, because she is exceptionally hard working. She begins broadcasting at 7 AM and works almost until midnight. She is the type of journalist almost completely lacking on our corporate-run media. She speaks truth to, and more importantly, even questions, corporate and government power. She is my kind of news reporter!
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